Sunday, February 20, 2011

Myanmar Rulers Warn Dissident of Tragic Ends

The military rulers of Myanmar appear to be taking a harder line toward the pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party three months after her release from house arrest, focusing on the opposition’s support for continued punitive sanctions against the government.

After warning earlier that she and her party could meet “tragic ends” if they continue to support economic and political sanctions, the government demanded over the weekend, through the state-controlled press, that the party apologize for acting against what it said were the interests of the nation.

Soon after her release in November, the Nobel laureate said she would consider supporting the relaxation of sanctions, which have become the focus of debate overseas since the end of her latest seven-year term of house arrest and the election of a nominally civilian government a week earlier.

Two weeks ago, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, issued a statement reconfirming its opposition to the lifting of sanctions and rebutting a widespread view that restrictions on trade and investment harm the people of Myanmar more than the ruling generals.

“Recently there have been calls for the removal of sanctions,” the statement said.
“It can be asserted that these measures do not hurt the public at large.”

It blamed “misguided government policies” for the country’s hardships and said, “Targeted sanctions serve as a warning that acts contrary to basic norms of justice and human rights cannot be committed with impunity.”

American sanctions against Myanmar ban most trade and investment in the country by American companies. Canada, Australia and the European union have imposed similar prohibitions.

Critics of sanctions also argue that their effectiveness is compromised by continued investment from China, India, Thailand, Singapore and other Asian nations. Last month, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Myanmar, called for “the immediate or early removal or easing of sanctions that have been applied against Myanmar by some countries.”

Several ethnic minority groups in Myanmar have also called for an easing of sanctions.

In its strongest statement about the democratic opposition since Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, the government said last week, “If Daw Suu Kyi and N.L.D. keep going to the wrong way ignoring the fact that today’s Myanmar is marching to a new era, new system and new political platforms paving the way for democracy, they will meet their tragic ends.”

The new government, which consists overwhelmingly of current or former members of the armed forces, is widely seen as a means to maintain nearly half a century of military control of the former Burma.
The statement added: “How big-headed the N.L.D. is to stick to the weapon of sanctions until it gains power by demanding that any changes and modifications should be made in consultation with the party, let alone lifting the sanctions.”
The statement, in the government mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar, did not elaborate on the nature of the “tragic ends.”

On Wednesday, the United States called on Myanmar to ensure that no harm comes to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. “We remain concerned about Aung San Suu Kyi’s safety,” said a State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley. “This is a fundamental responsibility of Burmese authorities to ensure her safety and that of all Burmese citizens.”

On Saturday, articles in the state-controlled press demanded that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party “mend their ways, begging public pardon for the acts they have breached in their interests, at the expense of the nation and the people.”

It insisted that Myanmar’s democratic opposition, which often sets the tone for Western policies, was responsible for any hardships caused by the sanctions, which include bans on trade and investment as well as restrictions aimed at the travel and businesses of senior figures in the ruling elite.

Without the opposition’s demand for sanctions, the government insisted, “our country would have enjoyed far greater development than at present.” New York Times

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